Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Canary in the Coal Mine (Classroom)

Whilst watching The Graham Norton Show last week, I discovered a name for something I often do with with class.

One of Graham's guests was Tom Hanks. Hanks asked Norton if he'd ready the copy of the book he'd sent him. Norton replied that he had, and that he'd found the 'Canary in the Coal Mine'. On one of the pages, to test if Graham Norton would read the book, Tom Hanks had left an inscription for him to read. 

Hanks described this as a 'Canary in the Coal Mine' and added that they're often put into scripts to check that the actors read the script. 



The above picture is one I recently used with my class. You'll see that not only did I give them a sentence that didn't need correcting (that was the activity), but I repeated it. How many would notice? How many would plough on regardless?

So, in slides, worksheets and in your own speech, start dropping in the odd canary to check the people in the coal mine as still 'with it'.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Piano Key Problem

I was watching a program about how a piano works earlier with my daughter. One of the facts was about the number of white and black keys. Wonder if children can use their reasoning skills (drawing a picture, making a model or looking for a pattern) to solve this:

___________________________________________________________________


On an 88 key piano, there are 52 white keys. How many are black? 
The lowest key (first note) is an A. The last note is C.How many A, B, C, D, E, F & G notes are there?
___________________________________________________________________



Here's the answer with a picture from Piano-Keyboard-Guide.com:


Saturday, 20 January 2018

Supermarket Maths

It's a quick one...


Supermarkets are full of maths, well everywhere is. You're probably walking around with your phone in your pocket. Snap some maths starters or additions to your lessons. they'll be a real life link. We've started here.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Team 100WC – Comment on Writing

One of the biggest impacts on writing standards in our classrooms has been the use of the 100 Word Challenge and similar writing opportunities. Blogging and 'little and often' writing tasks really help children improve as writers.
 

A huge part of this is children receiving comments about their work. Writing in a book and me marking it and then that book sitting on a shelf is ok, but only ok. What's much better is when someone from some far-flung part of the globe comes along and says what they like about a child's writing and what could be improved. Being part of a 'Hub' and receiving peer comments is part of this, but adults in 'Team 100WC' are a massive help and have a huge impact on children's writing. 

The 100WC is free to use, is offered by a retired head teacher and relies on volunteers to operate. 

So...
Think you have 20 minutes spare a week to read some fantastic writing and leave some comments? Do you know someone else who might? You don't even have to be a teacher, or be any good at writing - just need to be an audience! I do it each week. It is enjoyable. I read work from around the globe. I read work that's amazing. I read work that's no-so amazing. But, for each one, I say what I like and offer some advice. I hope I'm making a difference. 5 pieces of work a week - it's not much. When children in my own class receive comments, they really, really appreciate it!

If you can, take a look here!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Dialogue and Breaking the Fourth Wall

If you're looking for a way to teach punctuating dialogue, it's hard to beat Lee's "Teaching Direct Speech Punctuation using the iPhone text messaging!", which he published nearly five (FIVE) years ago.

Recently, I've been reading books in the following series to both my own children and my class. As someone reading a book out loud, the thing I like it is the way the books talk to their audience and invite them into the narrative.


The reason they're appearing in this post is that they're written as direct speech, with the speech in speech bubbles.

Ideas:
- children look at page or pages in a book and convert the speech bubble(s) into written, punctuated dialogue.

- children create a dialogue between themselves and the book. The books get the reader to think or intimate a response. These could be written down.

- children could write the narrative of the story. Still writing dialogue, but adding actions and descriptions too.

Just a few ideas to get you started...

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Minecraft and Rocks and Soils

We recently taught some of our introductory work for our science module on rocks and soils. As part of this discussion, we were discussing that rocks from under the soil can be seen around the world. To demonstrate this we nipped into our Minecraft world and had a fly around. Within the game, we were able to see places where rocks appeared above ground.
Then we did some digging under the soil and discovered rock below the surface.
                           




Finally, we even managed to show how igneous rock is formed by pouring water on lave to make obsidian.

Of course we used lots of other real world resources showing how rocks are really formed, what lava and magma are and different types of rocks, but it was engaging for the children and, more importantly, linked to a context that they understood. A number of children went, "Oh yeah, I've done that" once they got over the fact that obsidian was a real life rock. Next step is to try and build a portal in the classroom.




Sunday, 31 December 2017

Lightning Writing

Just like anything else, one of the key elements of becoming a better writer is actually doing it. One of the strategies we have used to increase the frequency of our writing is something we have called 'Lightning Writing'. This takes place most mornings during registration and involves writing for a short amount of time (often only 15 minutes). In general, the writing tasks fall into the following areas:
  • three sentence stories - write a story in three sentences. Horror works well, but it can also be a good opportunity for teaching rhetorical questions as a story ending.
  • improving supplied sentences - give them basic sentences and get pupils to improve them.
  • sentence combining - a variation on the above. However, with a focus on joining simple sentences together.
  • teaching sentence types in a context - we use Alan Peat 'Exciting Sentences'. This is a great opportunity to teach some of the different styles.
  • descriptive passages - writing a description based on a stimulus such as those provided by the brilliant 'Pobble' website. Although we have used our own such as this one.
      
    There are, of course,  lots of other options. We wrote tweets, emails to the prime minister and even letters of complaint. 
Once the idea is set up, the task is displayed on the board and children were able to get on with having a go independently. 
This activity does require a bit of extra marking, but, by adding in a peer-assessment day, editing day and feedback day, one task can become an extremely constructive piece of writing over a whole week. Often these tasks are so good they can be published (including sending them to the people they are writing to). Another advantage is that they come so frequently you can get them to write what interests you and the children as well as those pieces on the curriculum. A favourite of ours was the writing of haiku, which ended up in our best work books at the end of the year.